Hunched over the grass, I level every blade. Without the added height, they are all the same- the ants that work on the ground are safe. In the corner, the birdhouse catches my eye. Cracked, with its paint peeling, it swings from a long metal chain. A blue jay peeks its head out, only to disappear back into the cavernous space.
I am reminded of her.
If only I had encouraged her to stay home that morning, but she, always the dutiful one, slammed the front door shut three minutes after my alarm rang. Later, I was at my desk in the station when it first happened; my heart beat irregularly as I read aloud the transcript again and again and again for the next twelve hours. That day marked the last time I was to wear a suit and tie.
My affinity for writing notes grew with every passing moment she was gone. With those reminders, there was no room for error, no surprises, no middle-of-the-night phone calls that could make your mouth run dry. The instructions were simple- CALL MOM, GROCERIES- but with them, I would map out the rest of my life.
In them, I have created a message for her:
"After you left, the flowered wallpaper you chose was stripped, revealing a bare wall the color of dirt. I removed the fancy china dishes from the cabinets and packed them away in the attic- I do not know the first thing about hosting parties, and that was always your job. I continue to maintain your garden, although the years have made me stooped. Yet, perhaps it is better that way, to be closer to the ground and smell the earth rather than fear.
On the first anniversary, they published an article about us. I found the picture of your legacy on the front page of the newspaper the other day in the grocery store. In one robotic motion, I bought all one hundred copies so that I would have one hundred more of you, in the hope that somewhere in an alternate universe, you were the one who took the picture- not a stuffy man in an overcoat. The doctors say that my obsessive tendencies worsened that day, but what they do not understand is that I did this for you. It was always for you.
They say that 911 is the number to call for help, but add a slash and it becomes the day when I was unable to offer you any."
Hunched over the grass, I level every blade. Without the added height, they are all the same- only the ants that work on the ground are safe.